Nordic’s Largest Shopping Centre: Wi-Fi Analytics Will Drive Our Marketing Decisions

Elina Saarenmaa

Kamppi shopping centre

We’ve got something for you to chew: Departments stores are diminishing as a retail format while shopping centres grow in number and differentiate based on location and purpose. Shopping is becoming more and more impulse driven, and thus in-store customer engagement needs to be more entertaining, personalised and real-time.

Want more? Here you go: Traditional questionnaire based segmentation studies are history and retailers are seeking to understand customer profiles by tracking actual behaviour. Being active in social media will be a necessity for all customer-facing store personnel -- to build enough “digital muscle” to be successful in omnichannel retail. 

These are just a few of the eyebrow-lifting, yet well justified statements by Heli Vainio, Shopping Centre Manager at Kamppi, one of North Europe’s largest shopping centres. We invited her over to Walkbase’s Helsinki office a week ago for a 45-minute webinar session themed “What Will the Shopping Mall of the Future Look Like?”. Walkbase CMO and Head of Retail Insight Juha Mattsson joined her before the camera as the host of the session.

Read a summary of the juiciest bits here or click this link to watch the webinar recording in full.

How to deal with more than 100 000 customers a day?

The Kamppi Shopping Centre is located in the heart of Helsinki, Finland. It’s very unique in the sense that in the mall there’s located three transportation terminals in different floors: a local bus station, long distance buses, and the underground metro. Due to transportation the footfall of the mall gets huge -- easily one of the largest in the Northern Europe. Heli Vainio confirms that the average footfall passing through the area is 100k per day. On very busy days like Fridays, it could get as high as 140k. Just to compare, the Itis mall, the largest in Finland in terms of floor space, attracts an average of 50k visitors a day (18M a year). Emporia in Malmö, Sweden, states 25k visitors a day.

Many shopping malls are somewhat weekend oriented but Kamppi is busy at every day, and at all times. Kamppi’s central location also attracts lots of interest from startups, charity organisations, and community members for various events and experiments. There are also different presentations in the premises, like pop-up exhibitions and flashmobs. “Many of them are commercial propositions. Otherwise, we give the place for free to increase the amount of content we are offering for our customers” Vainio tells. “Indeed, there’s always something going on at Kamppi”, testifies Mattsson who is a frequent visitor.

What does the future of shopping centres look like?

“Larger will become even larger, and smaller become more convenient and serving the local community”, replies Vainio regarding shopping centres in downtown areas. Those further away ones can become successful by offering lots of services, becoming more like smaller city centre areas. 

She continues: “With more than 15 years of experience from department stores, I believe more in the concept of shopping centres. I believe that department stores have been like anchor stores in shopping centres. But they may not be like that in the future anymore. We are seeing many department stores closing their doors. The department store serves you best if you have a limited time to shop around. But the amount of level of excitement and great service that people want can be better served in shopping centres.” Mattsson also points out that for retailers it is easier to control your customer experience with a dedicated store rather than a concession in a department store.

Digital commerce will not reduce to e-commerce only 

Vainio raises an interesting point: there are people flagging for all commerce gradually shifting to web stores, and others are claiming that web shops are going to physical stores. “No one really knows what will really happen but what we can clearly see is that those stores that offer digital products don’t need a physical store anymore”, she explains. “None of us is purchasing flight tickets anymore from travel agencies. Five years ago we had four retail bank branches at Kamppi -- now we have none”. 

Vainio and Mattsson agree that naturally we think that physical stores will continue to exist: humans are social animals seeking for physical contact. Vainio quotes the speaker from a recent university seminar: “We need to learn again how to live slowly and live together with people, and not just with the computers”. After a working day, we don’t really want to spend more time with our laptops. “That’s why we strongly believe physical stores and spaces will continue to be key in retail.”

Mattsson continues: “That speaks to shopping. The physical environment, interpersonal relationships, and personal, face-to face service, is something that the digital channels can never offer.”

Grow your digital muscles

Physical stores can offer lots of excitement, a lot of interactivity and communication. Vainio emphasises how interactive you need to be in order to be successful in any business: “Today if you want to be a successful retailer you just don’t need to have great business idea, good store concept, or great personnel. You need good digital muscles.” 

70% of decisions are made in the store, and about the same amount of customers carry out research with their laptop or mobile before they go shopping. This means that in-store merchandising actually helps customers to make their final buying decisions. Vainio highlights that the whole personnel of retail stores needs to be on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, sharing videos and photos to create the buzz around the brand. “This is definitely the core of omnichannel, thinking of being present in multiple channels simultaneously”, she explains.

The better you measure, the better you manage

Being personal is a mega trend and a great opportunity. “In the end, we [as retailers] should be more entertaining because the buying experience should be entertaining and fun. Buying should be something that really excites you, it should be better as an experience than is offered in the web,” Vainio indicates. The possibilities are unlimited in order to serve and understand customers better through modern in-store analytics and marketing technology.

As an example, prior to getting real-time interior analytics, the marketing team at Kamppi was operating under the assumption that the after work and evening time attracts those customers that are most engaged and valuable, i.e. spend the most time at the mall. “But that wasn’t right”, Vainio explains. They discovered that the longest dwell time is around lunch, showing that people come in the city to run their errands, to go their business meetings, to see doctor, and in between they don’t want to go back to their offices. “They are spending their time at the shopping centre instead.” They also assumed they had a different visitor population from Monday to Friday compared to weekends, but discovered pretty much the same customers are returning regardless of weekday.
“With customer analytics like this, we understand customer behaviour with much higher granularity and are able to improve our decision making regarding marketing, layouts, tenant locations, and much more.”
She continues: “Since we are a substantial promotional location, it would be extremely interesting to see what’s overall traffic by the locations we are renting. Our promotion partners are extremely interested in shopper’s dwell times near ad displays. Earlier, we could just tell how much the nearest entrance pulled traffic.” But this doesn’t really tell how many people stopped at the promotion. Wi-Fi based analytics will offer this type of data and enables the pricing of ad locations based on their actual effectiveness.  

Customer behaviour metrics is the king

Vainio tells that they are extremely interested in the overall traffic of the locations that they are renting: “With customer analytics we are aiming to understand customer behaviour in the centre, that we are able to improve our activities and marketing location of our tenants. We are content providers so we must put up together a great story for our shopping centres in order to be successful”. 

The question is more about segmenting tribes, behaviour, interest groups, and things that you like to do together. “For the surveys people would answer that way they would look good,” Vainio claims, ”I’m not interested in lies -- I’m interested in facts. That’s why the research based on real behaviour is so much more valuable”, she concludes. 

Conversions from zone to zone

Though, the technology already exists, it is just about integrating the data in the shopping centre with different retailers.  

Vainio shares that she has tens of questions in her mind: “Are those restaurant customers downstairs moving upwards; how are long distance bus terminal customers behaving; what are they looking in stores at while waiting for the bus; or how about when they know that their metro is leaving in 2-3 minutes, is this just why they are passing through?” – I want to know and want to understand, she says. “This is why we need to install the analytics.”  

Read more on this topic:
 8 key metrics for malls to optimise layouts, conversion and advertising

Access in-store sales funnel white paper


Walkbase provides a retail analytics solution for improving the impact of marketing on physical stores and personalising in-store shopping experience.